Sun Linux move 'not defensive'

Sun's release of a Linux server at LinuxWorld in San Francisco last week shouldn't be seen as a defensive move, says the company's Asia-Pacific head.

Sun’s release of a Linux server at LinuxWorld in San Francisco last week shouldn’t be seen as a defensive move, says the company’s Asia-Pacific head.

Jay Puri (pictured right), who was paying a visit to New Zealand agent SolNet and local customers, says Linux on the company’s new LX50 Intel server is a “low-cost entry into the Sun family”. As well as Linux, Sun is releasing Solaris on the LX50, which reverses a decision made at the start of the year.

“It’s a very natural thing for us to offer both,” says Puri, adding that there will be no price difference between the two. LX50 pricing starts at $6450, excluding GST.

The change of heart over Solaris on Intel followed “customer surveys”, Puri says. Users, in fact, left Sun in little doubt about their reaction to the January decision. When Sun said that it would stop making available Solaris 8 downloads for Intel and cease work on a version of Solaris 9 for the chip family, a group called “the secret six” led a campaign to change the company’s mind.

Puri prefers to describe the move as being based on “the moderate success” of early demand, and a decision to sell a complete Intel-based hardware and software platform.

That’s also the approach it’s taking to the Linux market, bundling Sun ONE, Java and StarOffice in a “tested, integrated” package with full service and support.

But he says Linux has its limitations: as a 32-bit operating system it scales adequately to four processors, but 64-bit Solaris on Sun’s UltraSparc III platform is in a different league. Linux and Solaris taken together create an end-to-end architecture for the company.

Puri says Sun is maintaining high levels of R&D spending — running at 10% to 15% of revenue, or about $US2 billion a year — despite the hammering the company’s stock has taken since the dot-com and technology sector crashes. Its current stock price is less than a third of its level of a year ago.

“Wall Street would like us to reduce expenses to boost the stock. We could do that by cutting R&D but we’re in this for the long term and, longer term, R&D spending is good for shareholders.”

Puri says while the company has been hit particularly hard by the US crash, he is “not sorry at all that we took advantage of the boom”.

“It’s left us with $US6 billion on the balance sheet and enabled us to invest in R&D that’s refreshed our entire product line.”

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